BWW Reviews: Five Roars for SHREK THE MUSICAL Through Jan 26

Stagecrafters wows with "SHREK THE MUSICAL"

By Dr. Anton Anderssen

Now on stage at the beautiful Baldwin Theatre in Royal Oak is the colorful and mood-lifting production of "SHREK THE MUSICAL". After such a miserable start to the month, SHREK THE MUSICAL is just the right prescription to battle the winter doldrums. I got a real kick out of this fantastic show, which started off on the right foot when little kids were selling Shrek ears from a card table so the wee thespians could wear the adornments during the spectacle.

And spectacle this is, from the gorgeous violins to the big and bold voice of Shrek, the incredible costumes and novel chartreuse lighting. The sets are just incredible - I loved the pink tower inhabited by the princess; the carpenters working on this set are immensely talented. The cast is tremendous, too! I loved Shrek's accent - delightfully Scottish yet enunciated perfectly to make the lines completely understandable! This is the must-see show of the month, and it would be a pity to miss it.

Upbeat music, inventive puppetry, and incredible costumes are just a few of the elements to delight audiences as Shrek The Musical graces the Baldwin Theatre's stage. With a message of acceptance at its core, the animated movie featuring everyone's favorite green ogre gets the full Broadway treatment in this light-hearted musical packed with sight gags, double-entendre jokes and industry references sure to delight kids and adults alike. Shrek runs through January 26, at the Baldwin Theatre, 415 S. Lafayette in downtown Royal Oak. Call 248-541-6430 for tickets.

The ornery ogre Shrek (Matt Scharlau of Bloomfield Hills), shunned by the world, is content with a solitary life in his swamp. However, one day he finds his home over-run with a ragtag group of misfit fairy tale characters castoff from the kingdom of Duloc by the land's pint-sized ruler, Lord Farquaad (Christopher Anderson of Ferndale). He offers a challenge for Shrek to regain his home: rescue the miniature monarch's future bride from a lava-surrounded tower.

With Donkey (Dez Walker of Royal Oak), a lovably annoying new friend, as his trusty steed, Shrek rescues the beautiful maiden Fiona (Kristen Zublick of Royal Oak) from the tower and the clutches of a torch song-belting dragon (Christiana Perrault of Southfield). While Fiona is initially unimpressed with the seemingly odious ogre, a romance begins to blossom between the two. But, unbeknownst to Shrek, Fiona has a secret and is not who she seems. Shrek, now in love with Fiona, attempts to break up her wedding to Farquaad. Meanwhile, Gingy (Jenny Boyle of Ferndale), Pinocchio (Jeff Weiner of Royal Oak) and the motley crew of fairy tale characters storm the castle in revolt against Farquaad and have the last laugh as they each let their "freak flag fly" while Fiona's true identity is revealed to Shrek's delight.

"Shrek is all about acceptance. It is about accepting people for who they are, despite their differences, and about seeing through the outer surface to find the inner beauty of each person. As the song "Freak Flag" says "What makes us special makes us strong!" The show identifies the inner strength and beauty in everyone," says director Linda Zublick of Royal Oak.

At the helm of this three-ring circus of a show, Zublick has the task of marrying Shrek's compelling story and score with the myriad of sight gags and special effects the show calls for - all while respecting the iconic movie.

"The book for Shrek The Musical is very true to the original movie, so Shrek fans will not be disappointed. The music is funny, poignant, silly, sweet and toe-tapping all at the same time," says Zublick. "The Broadway musical allows wide room for interpretation. We are trying to create unique characters that are a combination of some of the features and characteristics of the movie characters and the Broadway characters. We want Stagecrafters' representation of Shrek to be a production everyone will enjoy!" she says.

To bring Shrek's characters to life requires some formidable special effects and a steadfast commitment from many of the performers. Zublick lists a few highlights. The group is building a 20-foot dragon that can move, and requires puppeteers to make her alive as she moves across the stage. Several actors have prosthetic pieces to attach to their faces, which required special molds to be made. Lord Farquaad needs to appear short and actually wears a costume that makes him look short while he walks on his knees. "Not an easy feat for any actor," remarks Zublick. Two of the fairy tale characters, Gingy and Pinocchio, have humorous quirks, which require unique costuming: Gingy is actually a puppet and Pinocchio's nose must grow. "These unique special effects, while providing interesting challenges for Stagecrafters, were ones the actors were well aware of when they auditioned. They make the show fun and engaging," says Zublick.

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Anton Anderssen Dr. Anton Anderssen is a cultural anthropologist, specializing in "high culture." Visit his web page at Anton is a member of several high IQ societies, including Mensa, Triple 9, ISPE and Prometheus. He has seasonal residency on the Italian Riviera, The Alps, Hawaii, Michigan and elsewhere world-wide covering cultural events. Dr. Anderssen's articles are included in the United States Library of Congress as part of their Official Performing Arts Historical Web Archives.

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